So I was all set to joke about how Subway would tie their crappy sandwiches into a movie where kids compete in a brutal contest for the amusement of the rich, and where a brutal revolution might be the only solution, and then I saw the above commercia…
In August I announced the resumption of Barrie’s monthly Food Not Bombs dinners, featuring community-prepared vegan meals offered free to all. My activities since then have kept me connected to local food security: helping at Rosie’s Thanksgiving dinner and providing the Barrie Food Bank over a ton of fresh fruit in FruitShare Barrie’s pilot season. Like all successful projects, these involve the efforts and donations of many community members, and luckily, these efforts seem to have the support of everyone who hears of them, or at least, nobody seems to speak against them.
Dana Maslovat of Southlands the Facts near the contentious Southlands property in Delta, BC
Canada’s most contentious piece of farmland is back on the chopping block as the Corporation of Delta held another in a long line of public hearings into the Southlands property in recent weeks. Debate over the property in the early ’80s yielded the longest public hearing in Canadian history.
On the table today is a revised plan to develop the 500-acre parcel in Boundary Bay for 950 homes. Council closed debate after 5 days of hearings, throughout which 233 people spoke in opposition to the application and (Read more…)
Read this Nov. 7 story from The Globe and Mail’s Mark Hume on documents obtained by the paper which suggest the BC Liberal Government is planning to dismantle the regulator in charge of protecting farmland in the province.
British Columbia’s “sacrosanct” Agricultural Land Commission will be effectively dismantled and the B.C. Oil and Gas Commission will assume new responsibilities for land use decisions if a proposal prepared for cabinet is adopted, according to confidential government documents.
Information obtained by The Globe and Mail shows that B.C. Agriculture Minister Pat Pimm is preparing to ask cabinet to endorse (Read more…)
New post. Mommy Moment is owned by Jody Arsenault, from Manitoba, Canada.
When I wrote on Facebook the other day that we were going to have waffles and white sauce for supper, I did not expect the response I got. So many people had no idea what white sauce for waffles was. I tried to explain it as a homemade type pudding, but then decided I should […]
Obesity rates among the denizens of Middle-Earth are on the rise. Hobbits, dwarves, orcs and even men are getting fatter, because instead of a sensible diet based on fruits, vegetables and Lembas bread, they’re eating at Denny’s, thanks to their new Th…
Before the Indian Rice Factory came on the scene, the odds of finding a good curry in Toronto were approximately zero.
When Amar Patel was inducted as a fellow of the Ontario Hostelry Institute in 2008, she discussed her reasons for having opened Indian Rice Factory nearly 40 years earlier. “It was not with the idea of making money. It was the idea of promoting Indian food.” True to her intentions, Patel was largely responsible for [...]
Raise the Rates issued their second annual Welfare Challenge last month. Participants were asked to eat on the amount of money a welfare recipient has left over after other expenses are paid. Denise Swanson and Wes Regan took the challenge. They speak …
Artisanal ice cream sometimes contains unusual ingredients, like foie gras, blue cheese, or horseradish, but Lick Me I’m Delicious’ latest ice cream innovation contains jellyfish protein, not for its flavor, but for its luminescent properties.Read more…
Vince’s Market understands the need to provide customers with fresh, convenient, and tasty meal solutions. In the hustle and bustle of…17 Zoom(s)
New post. Mommy Moment is owned by Jody Arsenault, from Manitoba, Canada.
One complaint I often hear from parents is that their school has adopted a litterless lunch policy and they find it hard to pack lunch on those days. I can understand how difficult that can be, so today I decided to show a simple littlerless lunch, bento style. This lunch contains: leftover roast beef wrap […]
Welcome your children into the kitchen! Reap the benefits and enjoy your creations.19 Zoom(s)
How do you follow up a pony-sized unicorn cake with rainbow filling? If you’re the Tattooed Bakers, you don’t rest on your equine laurels and instead concoct a demonic rotting horse-shaped confection with liquid rum snot.Read more… &…
So far, my re-entry into the world of baking bread has gone fairly well. I started rather hesitantly, unsure of the results, but I have been pleasantly surprised by the flavour, texture and quality so far. Yesterday I baked my latest loaf, as well as started a larger batch for baking in a few days. […]
New post. Mommy Moment is owned by Jody Arsenault, from Manitoba, Canada.
This was a fun Halloween bento lovable lunch to make for my daughters. It is actually a make your own pizza lunch. Stack of pumpkin shaped tortillas & one bat shaped one Salsa Shredded Mozzarella cheese Mini pepperoni slices —————————————- Carrot slices Snap Peas Ranch dip Babybel Cheese Jack-o-lantern Mini marshmallows Children love being independent, […]
Chef Andy Ricker (left) and JJ Goode, the co-author of the Pok Pok cookbook, dine in Thailand.
Andy Ricker is obsessed with northern-Thai cuisine. The James Beard Award-winning chef strives for accuracy, recreating dishes from northern Thailand—once considered the underdog of Thai cooking for its lack of representation in the Western food scene—in his five restaurants: Whiskey Soda Lounge, Pok Pok Noi, and Sen Yai in Portland, Oregon, and Pok Pok NY and Whiskey Soda Lounge in New York City. As he writes in his forthcoming cookbook, Pok Pok: Food and Stories from the Streets, Homes, and Roadside Restaurants of Thailand, “People often praise the food that we serve at Pok Pok and my other restaurants as ‘authentic.’ I’m flattered, but that word and its cousin in compliment, ‘traditional,’ are banished from my restaurants. The words imply that there is one true Thai food out there, somewhere.”
Like the revolutionary moment in the 60s when Julia Child revamped the cold meatloaf palettes of American cooks with her debut French cookbook, Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Pok Pok is the first indubitably comprehensive collection of essays and recipes to capture northern-Thai cuisine for Western readers. The book features 70 of Ricker’s most popular recipes, and calls for a span of ingredients foreign to the Western palette like leuat (raw blood), phak chii farang (sawtooth herb), and Pandan leaf.
Yesterday I sat down with Andy’s co-author, JJ Goode, a food writer who has helped pen highly acclaimed cookbooks with other well-known chefs like April Bloomfield, Masaharu Morimoto, and Roberto Santibañez. When JJ came into the VICE office, he brought with him some of the most iconic—and smelly—northern-Thai pantry items that are used throughout the Pok Pok cookbook.
From top left: naam plaa raa (fermented fish sauce), phrik phon khua (toasted chili powder), tamarind, Thai palm sugar (center), salted radish, pa lo (Chinese five spice), and cocoa powder.
VICE: What did you bring to our office today? I’m getting stares from my co-workers.
JJ Goode: I brought in a couple of things: tamarind, phrik phon khua (toasted chili powder), palm sugar, pa lo (Chinese five spice), and the Vietnamese version of Thai naam plaa raa (fermented fish sauce).
That block of tamarind looks like brown Play-Doh.
This is really easy to find. It comes in fresh blocks that are really fibrous. To cook with it, you want to mix it up with hot water and strain out the fibers. The final result is a tart and tangy tamarind water, a staple seasoning of northern-Thai food, even more so than lime.
What’s this mysterious brown powder? It smells like toasted New Mexican chili peppers.
This is phrik phon khua (toasted chili powder), typically made in Thailand with a chili that we can’t get here called phrik kaeng. Andy has figured out how to replicate the flavor with Mexican dried Puya chilis—you toast all of the chili, including the stems and shit—to make a very course, dried chili powder. You can pound it out or use a spice grinder to get the powder result.
Phrik phon khua (toasted chili powder).
What are you supposed to do with it?
Sometimes the powder is really dark—almost burnt—like a muddy-tobacco color, and is used for certain soups. It also doubles as a condiment with noodles, since noodles are intentionally served on the borderline of bland.
“Borderline of bland”?
Eaters are expected to season noodles to their liking. So when you dress them up, you put in the four Thai flavors to your personal preference: vinegar, dried chili powder, sugar, and fish sauce. In a way, the toasted chili powder is sort of like table salt.
Why do you think regional northern-Thai cuisine is underrepresented in the US, as opposed to the dishes of, say, Bangkok?
My guess is that the flavors of Central Thai food—Bangkok is in the center of the country—are more appealing to Westerners. There’s more of that sweet, sour, spicy thing going on. Thai food is very regional. Northern Thai food isn’t particularly spicy or sweet, and it features some bitter flavors, so it’s a bit harder for us to love. Andy picks the stuff that bridges the gap between our tastes and that of Northern Thai folks. After years and years of the same red curry and phat Thai, I think we’re ready for something new.
What’s this, a crusty doughnut?
It’s palm sugar, the sugar of choice for a lot of Thai pantries. It’s an unrefined sugar made from coconut palms that’s got a nice, complex sweetness to it.
Thai palm sugar.
Do you grate it? It looks like a real pain in the ass to deal with in the kitchen.
You have to chop it up, which is super annoying. In the cookbook, Andy calls for stuff like this by weight, because if you tried to measure a tablespoon of it, it would be such a production that you might as well crack it in half and place it on the scale to see what you get.
This salted radish looks like pork rinds and smells like an opened jar of vinegar that’s been sitting in a cellar for 30 years.
The salted radish is made with daikon radish, preserved with sugar and salt that’s in a lot of noodle dishes. You soak it for ten minutes and chop it up. It’s a little crunchy, yet slightly sweet and salty, but it hangs out in the background of dishes like rice porridge, one of Andy’s favorite things to eat for breakfast. You’re not going to go crazy and make a roasted-radish salad with this stuff.
Andy has adapted northern-Thai cooking in his restaurants by substituting American for Thai ingredients whenever necessary. How did you tackle sourcing these ingredients for the home cook?
Andy needed someone dumb to decode how to locate these items for the home cook, which took me a lot of iPhone and Google searches, and constantly texting Andy to see if what I found was close to what he needed. So the good news is, you can get all of the stuff in this cookbook in the US, whether it’s online or in Asian markets.
Whatever is in that bottle next to you smells like it’s rotting.
It smells like delicious bleu cheese to me! This is a Vietnamese version of naam plaa raa, a popular northern-Thai fish sauce. It’s fish mixed with rice husks, and it gets fermented to a sludge that’s sold in outside markets in a danger zone at a constant 98 degrees. It’s popularly consumed in raw form in Thailand because the flavor changes dramatically when it’s cooked, but it’s also associated with liver cancer and parasites. I brought in the pasteurized liquid version for you today, sold here in the US. As you can see from the funky green, gray froth, it’s not the fish sauce that we’re used to—it’s a totally different ball game.
In a perfect situation, are there any specific ingredients that Andy can’t source here in the US, but wanted to include in the cookbook if he could get them?
He’s adapted everything that he can’t find, but there’s a really cool herb that tastes like grilled fish, referred to as “fish herb.” There’s also maeng da, a massive water beetle that tastes just like bleu cheese. Thai cooks use it in a lot of things including northern-Thai chili relish. You can get it here if you look carefully enough. I found it in the freezer section at an Asian market in Queens, where a case of it was labeled with a picture of three dead looking upside down beetles, marked, “fish bait.” Because it’s not USDA regulated, I think that’s the only way to legally import it.
In your process of exploring northern-Thai flavors, is there anything that you really detest?
Beef-bile soup. I always strive to take another bite, but I don’t like it because it’s too bitter for me. Blood soup is another one, a large bowl full of raw blood that has earthy flavors that taste like iron. The cool thing about Andy is that he’s been going to northern Thailand for so long that he understands the food in a certain way that you just won’t. Traveling there, you confront your assumptions about food—you’re used to judging things on whether you instinctively like them or not—but there’s this other part of yourself that tries to evaluate things based on authenticity, so you’re constantly competing with yourself.
Trying to fit in with locals and simultaneously struggling with the notion of acquired taste can be challenging. On the other side of the spectrum, what’s one of the recipes from the cookbook that you tend to make over and over again?
Khao soi khai, northern-Thai curry-noodle soup, a tender chicken-leg soup in the most incredibly delicious coconut curry that has fried noodles on top of the soup and boiled wheat noodles inside of it. It also gets topped with pickled mustard greens, cilantro, chili sauce, and hunks of raw shallot, so you get this perfect sharpness at the end of each bite. It’s a northern-Thai curry that’s both Muslim and Burmese in origin, a dish you wouldn’t realize is northern Thai without any signifiers, which is Andy’s whole thing.
Sounds amazing. Thanks for talking to me, JJ.
Pok Pok, the cookbook, is available on October 29, 2013, by Ten Speed Press.
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A library that loans waffle makers rather than books is hoping to broaden Toronto’s culinary horizons. The Kitchen Library, which opened Tuesday on Danforth Ave. near Coxwell Ave., is a non-profit organization that loans kitchen appliances to foodies in need. … Continue Reading
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New post. Mommy Moment is owned by Jody Arsenault, from Manitoba, Canada.
One of my favorite posts to put up each week is my bento box style Lovable Lunches. My girls love opening their lunch box each morning to see what surprise awaits them. For this specific bento box lunch I packed: Homemade Greek Yogurt Red Grapes Seed Crackers Cheese Yogurt covered raisins Carrots Homemade Nut-free bar […]
For all the reading, the reviewing and the researching for the best bread maker these past few days, it’s somewhat ironic that instead I turned back to the old-fashioned method and made a couple of loaves by hand, this morning. Not perfect – I haven’t made bread these past twenty-odd years, and have forgotten the […]
The Naked Chef discusses healthy eating and his new TV show
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You’d think it should be this easy: just take a bread machine, throw in all the ingredients listed in the recipe, push a button, wait, remove loaf and eat. Yum. Nah, of course not. Never is. And there are reasons for this, I’ve been learning. I have an old bread machine – must be 20 […]
Ok, it’s that time. Time to put down the pen, or in this case, the keyboard; start cooking dinner – very slowly, for maximum flavour – and cut the grass in the golden sun of the late afternoon… And, crank up the rock and roll on the wireless headphones! Whoo-hoo! After a satisfying and truly […]
Kensington Market has a new Jamaican chicken shop to rival anything in the suburbs.
It’s not hard to find jerk chicken in this town, but all too often it’s dry and flavourless. Food lovers in search of good jerk have had to go to Scarborough to pick up the excellent sandwiches at Fahmee or Allwyn’s. But now there’s a new restaurant serving top-notch jerk chicken, smack dab in the [...]
|Read on to find out why this woman wants to HUG you!|
The Definitive Answer To 20 Of Your Biggest Health Questions Nothing changes faster these days than science and medical advice.That’s why, when it comes to your general health, it’s hard to know what information is right, wrong, and somewhere in between.To find some of the most common health questions that people have, we turned to […]
Orthorexia nervosa may be a familiar term to some of you. For others, it might sound like I borrowed it from a medical dictionary. But, the reality is, we are all familiar with the eating behaviours this term describes. According to the National Eating Disorders Association, orthorexia is an “unhealthy obsession” with otherwise healthy eating. From the mass-marketing of organic produce to the popularity of “fresh” restaurants, orthorexia and its related eating behaviours are an accepted part of our daily food culture.
Image by Alex Cook
A glutton doesn’t want much from life, other than a limitless supply of food, ready access to air-conditioning, a shower massage, and eventually, a full-time attendant. For such a person, only one form of food service will do, and it’s not a stool at a modernist tasting counter. It’s a buffet, and only a buffet. But how should a glutton navigate a buffet? And what should be one’s overall strategy?
Before going any further, let’s make it clear what I mean by a buffet. There are the vast, imperial casino versions, opulent troughs so spacious that even walker-assisted senior citizens can find space inside them. And then there are the small, fast-casual versions, like the Old Country Buffet and Golden Corral. Finally, there is the bottom-rung of unassisted dining, which includes both the deli and breakfast buffets. I like all four of these options and consider myself something of an expert in each.
The Casino Buffet
The casino buffet diner is an apex predator, feasting on what is to my mind the summit of self-service dining. But taking advantage of one requires planning. The thing to remember about even a small casino buffet is that it’s big. Very big. Typically, there will be multiple hot entrees, ranging in ambition from macaroni to veal Oscar. There will be a dessert area with up to three flavors of Jell-O, a wide selection of towering pies and cakes, and possibly, a jumbo salad bowl filled with pudding. Any buffet worth the name will also have at least one carving station, where a friendly man will be hard at work on a large joint or steamship round of roasted beef, helpfully ladling floppy slices, with knife and carving fork, onto your waiting plate. The key here is pacing. No one can exploit a given section in a single trip. Multiple return visits, planned far in advance, will avoid the embarrassment of overloaded plates, unsightly stains, or—worst of all—a quiet word with the manager, every glutton’s deepest fear.
The “Fast Casual” Buffet
Within the glutton-feeding business, the term “fast casual” denotes restaurants that aspire to slightly more than just brightly lit suicide booths manned by pretty, unattainable girls. There are waiters who will occasionally come by to refill water glasses, and, if pressed, to remove used plates. But the food selection is smaller, the trays replenished less frequently, and the meat of lesser USDA grade—Select rather than Prime, but only seldom Cutter or Canner. They are cheap, though. Since the clientele of such places are generally octogenarians with cataracts and/or dementia, you can really let yourself go here, away from prying eyes.
The Deli Buffet
Of all three categories, this is the one that presents the greatest potential for value, and the least risk to personal dignity. The key to making the most of the deli buffet is to go very late in the day, or even at night, when the food is at its least appealing and hence, least likely to sell. An enterprising owner will often give courageous customers a deep discount, and guess what? The joke’s on them, because deli buffet food is at its very best late at night. The food, once scalding hot, has now cooled down to a warmth slightly greater than body temperature, which is the best (and easiest) to eat quickly and in great volume. Better still, the various foodstuffs, all of which tend to be greasy, have slowly dehydrated, and are now little more than tepid grease vessels. So have your fill of leathery little tater tots, ultracaramelized spare ribs and plantains, richly dense and dry macaroni and cheese, and, best of all, roasted potatoes that are all crust and cream, magic starch with which to fill a vast and distended stomach.
One warning: because deli buffets charge by the pound, a meal here can run into serious money. For this reason, they are best used for midnight snacks and between-meal treats.
The Breakfast Buffet
No discussion of buffets could be complete without touching on the most common—and in many ways the most vital—of all contemporary buffets, the breakfast buffet. Like everyone else, I am drawn to these, but nearly always let down by them. The eggs tend to be dried out, the bacon of poor quality, the home fries a joke, and the sausages, well, a crapshoot at best. The ideal strategy is, I believe, to make fresh toast, butter it, and construct a thick, salty sandwich made entirely of bacon, accompanied by plump sausage links. (Of course, this is assuming that the butter doesn’t consist of hard little foil-wrapped bricks, which it always does.) A single spoon of eggs will provide a nutritional fig leaf.
Now get out there before your rival gluttons do. Even a buffet will eventually run out.
More by Josh Ozersky:
There’s been an awful lot of talk lately about GMOs, their “artificiality,” and whether they are or are not the next great plague upon humanity. Which is silly, because what we really, truly should be talking about when it comes to food and its “realness” is the nature-defying, space-time violating scourge that is artificial butter flavoring.